Live from Sportel: FIFA looks to build on Brazil momentum; 4K efforts bear commercial fruit via two films

FIFA TV’s 4K production efforts at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil are bearing fruit this week as the 2014 Official World Cup 4K Film will become available for distribution and second film, focusing on the Final between Germany and Argentina, is expected to be available in the coming months.

“We were emboldened by 4K to attempt to do two films and the results were successful as one is being delivered this week and the other is about 90 per cent completed,” said Paul Redman, head of FIFA Films during a press conference this morning at Sportel in Monaco.

Reflecting on the overall 4K efforts, Redman says that there are two aspects of innovation at FIFA TV.

“First we have to never forget the day job of providing an HD signal to the world but there is no doubt a missed opportunity if we don’t use the World Cup to explore and innovate,” he explained. “And that is our role from a legacy point of view but also as a service provider to rights holders.”

The 4K project at the World Cup was only one such innovation at the World Cup. NHK, for example, delivered 8K productions of nine matches.

“That project showed the importance of collaboration as we were able to take the 8K feed into the IBC and then downconvert it to 4K for one of our other partners, Sony, to produce a number of 4K trailers,” said Redman. “We were pleased with the workflow.”

Another partner was Fraunhofer whose Omnicam system was used to capture a 180-degree video of the final that will be on display at the new FIFA Museum when it opens in 2016.

“A lot of efforts are geared toward the museum and its success requires a truly immersive experience and it benefits from what we can achieve,” added Redman.

The FIFA session at Sportel also offered up additional information with respect to viewership and digital usage of the FIFA streaming and app services. New viewing records were set in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands and other countries experienced multi-year highs.

Niclas Ericson, director of FIFA TV, however, said the breakthrough was in America.

“The numbers there matched the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals, and also the World Series so for us it was very interesting because we are breaking through in a market where we are not the number one sport,” added Ericson.

In terms of digital viewership more than one billion people accessed the FIFA Global Stadium site and more than 28 million downloaded the official FIFA app.

“That makes it officially the biggest sports event app in history,” said Stefan Eric-Wildeman, FIFA TV, manager, sales and distribution.

For rights holders the efforts meant both access to white label products and apps as well as the component parts, like multi-angle VOD, match streaming, and data feeds, that could be incorporated into a rights holders own platform. The result was more viewers than ever.

Akamai, he added, reports that streaming of the Netherlands vs. Argentina semi-final required 6.9 TB of data per second in order to meet demand. In addition 5.3 million people in the U.S. watched the Belgium vs. USA match online via the ESPN and Univision digital platforms.

“The FIFA World Cup app had peak usage of three million users and more than 600,000 concurrent streams delivered,” said Wildeman.

The next goal for FIFA is to continue to take the momentum in Brazil and continue to build on it in advance of next summer’s Women’s World Cup in Canada.

“There is enormous interest for the Women’s World Cup and in the participating territories there will be a similar push to what was done for the men’s World Cup,” said Ericson. “We cannot spend the same amount of resources as we did in Brazil but there is a larger operation and we are putting TV crews in place to follow teams on non-match days to feed a multi-media system with more images. But there are large commitments in North America and it will be a great, huge event.”

Ericson added that the use of UltraHD is in the early discussion stages with the parties required to make it a reality for the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

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